THE arrest of Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) officers in Harare this week sent shockwaves down the spine of civil society organisations (CSOs).
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said yesterday that Zesn officials were in possession of equipment which was allegedly being used to announce results for illegally.
But rights activists implored the government to respect its own constitution and allow citizens to exercise their rights.
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum acting executive director Wilbert Mandinde said the arrests were worrying.
“We are worried about the actions of the police going around tormenting CSO members doing legitimate work,” Mandinde said yesterday.
“Zesn and ERC (Election Resource Centre) are organisations, which are operating legally in terms of the laws of Zimbabwe. Both organisations work on electoral issues and both organisations have not been doing anything illegal.
“Our view is that the police are being partisan in their approach and are trying to assist with the hiding of proper results for this election. Police should allow CSOs to do their work. None of the organisations announced any results.
“We also assist with coming out with a conclusion as to whether the elections are free or fair. The President has always called for these elections to be free and fair and whatever work they were doing is to assist in concluding whether elections were free and fair.”
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Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust executive director Ignatius Sadziwa said the arrest confirmed the politicisation of Zimbabwe’s police.
“The arrest of Zesn and ERC officials during election time is so unfortunate and detestable. This saves to confirm the politicisation of our police and that elections are never free and fair in this country,” Sadziwa said. “Election watchdogs as human rights defenders play a vital role in ensuring that elections are conducted credibly.
“We call upon the release of the arrested officials and that police desist from making arbitrary arrests and conduct themselves professionally in tandem with the constitution.”